On January 3, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNS) published their updated clinical practice guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of earwax impaction.
Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, and chair of the AAO-HNS guidelines update group said this update from the 2008 guidelines is significant because it is a reminder to patients that ear health starts with them.
"There is an inclination for people to want to clean their ears because they believe earwax is an indication of uncleanliness,” Schwartz said. “This misinformation leads to unsafe ear health habits."
The AARP's Article "How To Get Rid Of Earwax" By Matt McMillen quoted Eric Cohen Of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York regarding the normal bodily function of earwax production:
"The thinking is that [earwax] has some antibacterial properties and it may also help to move dead skin out of your ear canal."
Cohen continued saying that doctors know that most people's earwax comes out on its own.
"The ear is like a self-cleaning oven," he says. "You shouldn't need to do anything to keep your ears clean of wax."
The AAO-HNS also provided patient information on the “do's and don’ts” of earwax management and healthy ear care...
Leave your earwax alone
- Unless your earwax is causing symptoms or blocking the ear canal, leave it alone!
Understand the symptoms of earwax impaction
- These include decreased hearing, fullness, ringing, distortion/changes to hearing aid function
Seek medical attention
- If you have symptoms of hearing loss, fullness in the ear or ear pain, seek medical attention
Ask your health care provider
- If you have a history of wax buildup, ask your healthcare provider for at-home treatment options
Seek medical attention
- If you have ear pain, drainage or bleeding, seek medical attention
Over-clean your ears
Excessive cleaning can:
- Irritate the ear canal
- Cause infection
- Increase the chances of wax blockage
- Excessive cleaning can:
Put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear
- No cotton swabs, hairpins, car keys, or toothpicks!
- Small objects can cause cuts in ears, a hole in your eardrum, and dislocation of the hearing bones
- This can lead to hearing loss, dizziness, ringing and other symptoms of ear injury
Stick flaming candles into your ear -- EAR CANDLES ARE A BIG NO!
- Ear candles can cause damage
- There is no evidence they work
Ignore symptoms if home remedies are unsuccessful
- Seek medical attention if at-home attempts have not resolved the problem
Irrigate or try cerumen-removing/softening drops when your ear is damaged
- If you have had previous ear surgery or a perforated eardrum, do not try earwax removal drops unless cleared to do so by your ENT
Forget to clean your hearing aids
- Make sure to clean your hearing aids as recommended
FOR GENERAL AT-HOME EAR CARE, THE AAO-HNS RECOMMENDS:
- Using a washcloth to clean the external ear—but do not insert anything into the ear canal
Using a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin or commercial drops in the ear to help soften the wax and aid the natural process of removal
- Detergent drops such as wax softeners may also help; however, in a clinical study, we found that EARWAX MD drops dissolved earwax in as quickly as 15 minutes, proving itself effective and much faster than the leading earwax removal drops (which can take days to work).
However, despite self-cleaning efforts, if wax does build up and cause a blockage in your ear canal, try EARWAX MD or see a medical professional.
“There are no proven ways to prevent cerumen impaction, but not inserting cotton-tipped swabs or other objects in the ear canal is strongly advised,” AAO-HNS advises.
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